(FAYETTEVILLE, NC) - The NCAA Woman of the Year award honors student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, service and leadership. The USA South Athletic Conference's 2017 Rita Wiggs Woman of the Year and nominee for the NCAA award is Averett University senior softball student-athlete Jessica Long. The Conference honoree is chosen through a specific process outlined by the NCAA.
The USA South Woman of the Year Award is named after former Conference Commissioner Rita Wiggs. Wiggs, a tireless advocate of women's collegiate athletics as well a constant encourager of service to one's community, was the USA South's first full-time Commissioner serving the League for 16 years. In the spring of 2016 she was inducted into the USA South Hall of Fame.
Long, a standout on the Cougar softball team, concluded her collegiate career this past spring when she was named an All-American for the third time and All-Region for the fourth year. She is a four-time USA South All-Conference Team member, a two-time League Player of the Year and the 2014 Conference Rookie of the Year. Long led her team to one Conference Regular Season and Tournament Championship as well as two trips to the NCAA Tournament. This year, she earned Averett's female senior student-athlete of the year honor as well as its Barbara Kushubar Award as the overall female student-athlete of the year. Additionally, Long was named the USA South's Female Don Scalf Award winner as the Conference's top female student-athlete becoming the fourth to earn both honors.
Academically, Long graduated as a member of two national honor societies and a 3.74 GPA which earned her the Top GPA Award for an Averett senior female student-athlete. She was a four-time member of the USA South Academic All-Conference team and was named a 2017 Academic All-American. Additionally, Long was the recipient of the 2016-17 Elizabeth and James Bustard Distinguished Award which is awarded to one or more graduating seniors who excel in high ideals of living, in spiritual qualities and in generous service to others, for use in higher education.
Long gave her time away from the softball diamond and classroom in several different ways. Long was a member of Averett's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as well as volunteering at the Alamance Regional Pediatric Rehab in Burlington, N.C., Peak Resources in Graham, N.C., and at the Dan River Region's Week to Engage working with the Boys & Girls Club and Special Olympics.
Long's name and accolades will now be forwarded to the NCAA Woman of the Year selection committee. The committee will choose the top ten nominees in each division (I, II and III). From among those 30 honorees, the selection committee will determine the top three in each division. From those nine, the 2017 NCAA Woman of the Year will be chosen.
For more information on the NCAA Woman of the Year Award, click HERE.